Within Walls Private Life in the German Democratic Republic

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-12-16
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Private life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) is often seen as having been virtually non-existent, simply another East German commodity forever in short supply. In part this had to do with the common perception that private life and state socialism were at odds by definition, to the extent that the private person has no legal identity or political standing outside the socialist community. The East German regime's infamous surveillance techniques, best illustrated in the notorious exploits of the state's sprawling security force - the Stasi - and its reserve army of 'unofficial collaborators', further dramatized the full penetration of the state into the private sphere.

Within Walls takes a different perspective. Paul Betts shows how, despite the primacy of public identities, the private sphere assumed central importance in the GDR from the very outset, and was especially pronounced in the regime's former capital city. In a world in which social interaction was heavily monitored, private life functioned for many citizens as a cherished arena of individuality, alternative identity-formation, and potential dissent. The book carefully charts the changing meaning of private life in the GDR across a variety of fields, ranging from law to photography, religion to interior decoration, family living to memoir literature, revealing the myriad ways in which privacy was expressed, staged, and defended by citizens living in a communist society.

Author Biography

Paul Betts taught at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1996-1999, and has been teaching Modern German History at the University of Sussex since 2000. He has published numerous works on post-war German history, including The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design (2004), and was the joint editor of the journal German History from 2003-2009.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. vii
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Introduction: Privacy in an Enclosed Statep. 1
Secret Societies, Public Institutions, Private Lives
Tyranny of Intimacy: The Stasi and East German Societyp. 21
The Stasi as 'Undershirt'p. 24
Diary Writing (or Not)p. 35
'Operative Psychology' and Privilegep. 38
The Informantp. 42
East of Eden: Christian Subculture in State Socialismp. 51
A New Reformationp. 52
The 'Youth Dedication' Controversyp. 56
The Christian Homep. 63
Burying the Deadp. 74
Turning Outwardp. 77
Intimacy on Display: Getting Divorced in East Berlinp. 88
Marriage and Modernityp. 89
The Interregnump. 92
Divorce in the New Republicp. 95
The Interventionist 1960sp. 100
Creeping Pessimism: The 1970s and 1980sp. 108
Domestic Ideals, Social Rights, Lived Experiences
Building Socialism at Home: Remaking Interiors and Citizensp. 119
The New Cult of the Domesticp. 120
The Invention of Traditionp. 126
Modernization at Homep. 129
Etiquette and Socialist Civilizationp. 136
1970s Lifestylesp. 141
Property, Noise, and Honour: Neighourhood Justice in East Berlinp. 148
Dispute Commissionsp. 149
Personal Propertyp. 154
Peace and Quietp. 159
Insults and Reputationp. 162
Socialism's Social Contract: Individual Citizen Petitionsp. 173
The Right to Complainp. 174
The Landlord Statep. 177
Narrating Discontentp. 182
Speaking Socialistp. 186
Picturing Privacy: Photography and Domesticityp. 193
Postwar Socialist Photographyp. 194
Taking the Camera Indoorsp. 208
Epilogue: The House of Spirits: 1989, Civil Rights and the Reclamation of Private Lifep. 227
Notesp. 239
Bibliographyp. 291
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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